Libya & other topics - Daily Briefing (21 December 2020)
Daily Press Briefing by the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric.
- Middle East peace Process
- Western Sahara and more...
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS
Today, the Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Georgette Gagnon of Canada as his new Assistant Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya.
Ms. Gagnon succeeds Yacoub El Hillo of Sudan, who will complete his assignment on 5 January 2021. The Secretary-General is grateful for his distinguished service in support of the UN mandate in the country, and his work with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Ms. Gagnon brings to the position over twenty-five years of experience leading and implementing strategic initiatives on human rights, humanitarian action and development and coordinating multi-disciplinary teams in conflict and post-conflict situations.
Also, being appointed today is Ramiz Alakbarov of Azerbaijan as his new Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He will also serve as the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
Mr. Alakbarov succeeds Toby Lanzer of the United Kingdom, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service.
Mr. Alakbarov also brings 25 years of experience in executive leadership, strategic planning and policy making, development programming and management, as well as humanitarian response, including as the Director of the Policy and Strategy Division in New York and the Country Representative in Haiti for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
SECURITY COUNCIL/MIDDLE EAST
This morning, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, briefed members of the Security Council. He said told them that the latest humanitarian needs assessment found that almost 2.5 million Palestinians - that's 47 per cent of the population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory - need aid.
Mr. Mladenov said he remains deeply troubled by continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Over the past year, Israeli authorities advanced controversial settlement plans that had been frozen for years. He added that the total number of units advanced this year are on par with 2019 numbers, despite an eight-month hiatus.
Also, Mr. Mladenov said that violence and attacks against civilians have continued in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He said that he's appalled that children continue to be victims - with a particularly troubling series of incidents over the past month in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.
SECURITY COUNCIL/WESTERN SAHARA
This afternoon the Security Council will also hold a closed meeting on Western Sahara. They will be briefed by Bintou Keita, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, and Colin Stewart, the Special Representative and head of the UN Mission for the Referendum on Western Sahara (MINURSO).
On Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues confirmed that two inter-agency assessment teams are expected to enter Tigray today following official approval from the Federal Government last Saturday.
One team is destined to visit Shire and another will go to Mekelle. The aim of the missions, which are expected to last one week, is to assess the humanitarian needs.
In the meantime, the Humanitarian Response Plan for Northern Ethiopia has been updated. We now seek $116.5 million until the end of January 2021. The goal is to address the immediate needs of an estimated 2.3 million people, including 1.3 million people impacted by the recent conflict.
The plan is currently 46 per cent funded with an outstanding gap of $63.4 million.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) said that political and security tensions increased over the weekend in the midst of the electoral campaign for the presidential and legislative elections on 27 December.
A coalition of armed groups simultaneously attacked four prefectures in the western and southern part of the country. These groups also attempted to reach the capital, Bangui. UN Peacekeepers responded proactively and exchanged fire with armed groups in several areas. No damage was reported.
On Sunday, the Mission and members of the G5+ consisting of main international partners in the Central African Republic, issued a communiqué condemning the incidents and calling on stakeholders to stop the violence and expressed their support for the holding of the elections as scheduled.
Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
In Ethiopia, the UN Senior leadership in country including the Resident Coordinator, Dr. Catherine Sozi, the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Special Representative of the Secretary General to the UN Office to the African Union, Ms. Hanna Tetteh, and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Ms. Vera Songwe met yesterday with the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Demeke Mekonnen Hassen. In their discussions, they reiterated the UN's call for full humanitarian access, protection of civilians and restoration of basic services.
Also on Ethiopia, the International Organization for Migration is helping people who have fled Tigray as it awaits greater access to the region itself.
IOM has assessed 10 districts in the Afar and Amhara regions, which are hosting people who have fled Tigray.
The agency provided water and other supplies, as well as sanitation services, in Kebero Meda camp in the town of Gondar in North Amhara.
Most of the people in the sites hosting displaced people from Tigray are women and children, many of whom fled without their belongings.
Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning on the work of the constitutional committee and other recent developments. He said that, thanks to the existing arrangements, including those involving Russia, Turkey and the United States, a fragile calm continues, although this falls well short of the nationwide ceasefire envisaged in resolution 2254.
Mr. Pederson warned that with five international armies operating in Syria, the country remains a tinderbox for a major international incident, with potential implications across the region.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock also briefed. He told Council members that the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Syria continues to rise, though limited testing in all parts of the country makes the extent of the outbreak impossible to assess with certainty.
Mr. Lowcock also warned that prices of subsidized bread have doubled, while the price of subsidized diesel more than doubled since September. Meanwhile, he added, hostilities have been continuing in northern Syria in recent weeks, putting civilians at risk.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) applauds the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Libya for the decision taken in this morning's long-awaited meeting to unify the exchange rate. The Mission calls the decision an important and much needed step towards alleviating the suffering of the Libyan people and a good sign that this vital sovereign institution is moving towards unification.
The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Stephanie Williams, stressed that this is the moment for all Libyans — particularly the country's political actors — to demonstrate similar courage, determination and leadership for the sake of the Libyan people. Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
- Climate Change Reports
- International Day For the Abolition of Slavery
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum on climate change.
He said that the lesson we must learn from 2020 is that we need to transform our relationship with nature and with each other, and he stressed that we must move forward together. "Solidarity is survival," he said, and he reiterated his call to all countries to implement plans to become carbon neutral by 2050.
The Secretary-General said the pandemic and the climate crisis have brought us to a threshold, but he said we have the solutions we need to make 2021 the year in which we leap forward to carbon neutrality.
CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTS
Staying on the topic of climate, I want to flag two reports that were issued today.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its Production Gap Report, which says that governments must wind down fossil fuel production by 6 per cent per year to limit catastrophic warming.
The report measures the gap between Paris Agreement goals and countries' planned production of coal, oil, and gas. It found that the "production gap" remains large: countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with a 1.5°C temperature limit.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today launched its State of the Climate Report, which says that 2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record. Ocean heat is also at record levels and more than 80 per cent of the global ocean experienced a marine heatwave this year, with widespread repercussions for marine ecosystems already suffering with more acidic waters due to carbon dioxide absorption.
The Secretary-General today is speaking, by pre-recorded video message, at the International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People.
Four months after the 4th of August explosion in Beirut, Mr. Guterres will thank the international community for its support and technical expertise.
But he is also warning that the pandemic is another factor aggravating the country's already fragile economic situation.
Poverty is increasing and, he will add that the Lebanese people have been waiting for the formation of a new government with the capacity to implement needed reforms.
The new "Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework," prepared jointly by the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations, is designed to help the Lebanese people move beyond the emergency phase and onto the path for longer-term recovery and reconstruction.
As the framework begins its implementation, the Secretary-General will call for continued engagement of non-governmental stakeholders and for the voices of the people to be heard, as well as for more support for the urgent needs of families and businesses. Noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
- Secretary-General/Resident Coordinators
- Security Council/Democratic Republic Of The Congo
- Central African Republic
- Central Emergency Response Fund
- Afghanistan/Violence Against Women And Girls
- International Civil Aviation Day
- U.N. Population Fund/Humanitarian Appeal
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the start of a five-day meeting with the 129 UN Resident Coordinators who are leading the UN's response and recovery efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
This is the third global gathering of Resident Coordinators and, of course, the first one to be fully online due to the pandemic.
The Secretary-General said he counts on them to fully mobilize their partners and UN country teams to support Governments in ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 tests, treatments, and - very soon, hopefully - vaccines, which are a global good and must be available to all, everywhere.
Mr. Guterres noted that the pandemic has revealed profound fragilities, with inequalities growing, the climate emergency worsening and hatred spreading.
He said that recovering better from the pandemic and bolstering action for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development must be two sides of the same coin.
During the coming days, the Resident Coordinators will discuss how to set the set the stage for a more sustainable recovery, including how to protect jobs and bolster social protection and basic services.
SECURITY COUNCIL/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Here, in the Security Council, addressing the Council by videoconference, Leila Zerrougui, the head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, began by highlighting political tensions in the country, which led to yesterday's announcement by President Felix Tshisekedi that the coalition uniting Cap for Change (CACH) and the Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC) had ended.
The DRC cannot afford a serious institutional crisis, Ms. Zerrougui told Council members. It needs stable and functioning institutions that get back to work as quickly as possible and focus on national economic recovery, as well as stabilization in the eastern part of the country, ahead of the general elections scheduled for 2023.
The Special Representative said that the Security Council can play an important role to encourage a negotiated resolution between the two forces that favours lasting solutions, prioritizing the interests of the Congolese people over short-term political objectives that risk further increasing tensions.
AFGHANISTAN/VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS
A report released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office warns that Afghan women and girls are being failed by the country's justice system, with their access to justice for crimes of violence remaining tenuous. UNAMA found that only half of the reported crimes reached a primary court, with perpetrators convicted in around 40 per cent of all documented cases. Other issues raised in the report include the problematic handling of rape cases and ongoing detention of women for "running away".
Throughout the global campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December, the United Nations in Afghanistan is calling for an increased effort to prevent and redress violence against women and girls. This is particularly important in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19, with the ongoing monitoring by UNAMA suggesting that violence against women and girls has increased, as difficulties for victims in reporting crimes and accessing safety and justice have also increased. Noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Central African Republic
- South Sudan
- Arabic Language Day
- International Migrants Day
In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General welcomed the release on 17 December of some of the children who were abducted from a secondary school in Katsina State, Nigeria, on 11 December. He commended the swift action taken by the Nigerian authorities to rescue the children and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of those who remain abducted. He stressed the importance that the released children and their families are provided with the necessary health and psychosocial support.
The Secretary-General called for increased efforts to safeguard schools and educational facilities in the country and reiterates the solidarity and commitment of the United Nations to supporting the Government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, also expressed his relief with the children's release. He said that, if any other schoolboys are still being held, they must be released immediately, as well as any other children being held captive in the country.
Mr. Hawkins stressed that last week's attack, which directly targeted children in the middle of the night, was an outrage, as schools should be safe.
This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the members of the Bundestag. In his speech, which the Secretary-General delivered in German - a first for him - he stressed how German thinking, leadership and vision have helped to shape his political life. He praised Germany for being a pillar of multilateralism, saying that it is clear that global challenges require global solutions. However, he noted that we face a deficit of international cooperation, and in many places, people are closing their minds.
As we look ahead, he said, we need multilateralism that delivers - and a reform of governance structures that is based on present realities and future-focused, not one stuck in the world of 75 years ago.
Also today, the Secretary-General spoke to the German press after his virtual meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said that international cooperation has been tested this year like never before - but through decisive action, the Chancellor and Germany helped show the world what global solidarity looks like.
He praised Germany's leadership, both domestically and globally, in taking on the COVID-19 challenge as well as for their generous support for the ACT-Accelerator to develop tools to fight the pandemic.
He also thanked Germany for guiding the European Union towards enhanced climate ambition as well as a greener budget.
The Secretary-General said he discussed a number of crisis situations with the Chancellor, including Libya - where she and Germany have played a pivotal role in forging peace. "Across the board, we have come to rely on Germany's principled stance and leadership," he said.
On Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, more than six weeks since the start of the conflict in Tigray, many people in the region have still not received assistance, despite some limited recent deliveries by some UN agencies.
As we have told you this week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has delivered aid to Tigray border areas and the World Food Programme (WFP) has sent some food into camps in Tigray.
We continue to call for immediate and unfettered access to all areas where people have been affected by the fighting.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, although electricity and telecommunications are intermittently working in Tigray's capital, Mekelle, people in many other parts of the region are still lacking access to food, water, cash, power and telecommunications.
In neighbouring Sudan, between 200 and 300 refugees continue to arrive from Ethiopia every day. As of yesterday, nearly 51,100 refugees had crossed the border in search of safety and assistance.